Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Six Kinds of Friends You Need & One You Don't

Hi there blog friends.  I've been thinking about this post for along time and I thought it would be an interesting topic - with lots of confusing abbreviations.  Over the years, I've built many friendships, as I'm sure have many of you.  The majority have withstood the test of time and grown stronger through trials and tests.  These friends have become my family, my tribe, the friends that I know will be with me forever.  When they voice an opinion, I listen, because I know that if anyone knows me almost as well as I know myself, it's them.  Some other friendships though, sadly, have not and have simply disintegrated for unknown reasons... such as moving to a new city, dating a new boyfriend, the loss of a toxic friend... leaving us to wonder what was even there in the first place.  So many sources focus on being in good and bad romantic relationships, but what about good and bad friendships? What kind of happiness or losses do they bring?

I've always thought of my friendships in one simple way and it revolves around my spirit.  Think of your spirit like a light - now think of the people, experiences and events that cause it to shine brighter..... like laughing with friends, bonding over a new experience, concurring a fear, accomplishing something you've been working hard on, sharing secrets on a walk outside.  Those experiences make you happy right?  Well, those are the experiences you have with The Six Kinds of Friends You Need (TSKOFYN).  

Now think of the things that make it darker, things that make it want to go out...... like hearing hearing hurtful comments about someone else, having someone lie to you, listening to negative body talk, also referred to as fat talk, that in turn makes you upset about what you see in the mirror, feeling anxious about the date you don't want to go on, having a co-worker talk behind your back.  Those experiences make you sad right?  Well, those are the experiences you have with the One You Don't, also known as The Toxic Friend (TTF).

Have you ever had a toxic friend before?  I've had my fair share as I'm sure many of my readers have had as well.  I've even seen some of my friends get hurt by toxic friends.  It's something we never talk about though.  We can sit for hours sharing stories about the guys who have hurt us... but the friends?  Never.  

When it comes to dating, women often say "look at how a guy talks about his ex-girlfriends, because one of these days that's how he might be talking about you," what they don't say is sometimes that happens with friends.  So, often times, when I hear people being talked about in a negative way - former friends, former lovers or even oneself, I'll begin to pay attention.  In my mind, I'll start to document whether these things are warranted and if they contain documented evidence - if your boyfriend cheated on you with your best friend and you want to talk about it or a friend has been ditching you to hang out with her boyfriend and you need to vent that's totally understandable.  It's the things that aren't warranted or don't make sense that end up being red flags - the friend you had that was "jealous" of you so she just disappeared, your boyfriend's ex-girlfriend and how ugly you think she is, or the friend you gossip about all the time but never fight with.  Think of red flags the way you would think of slowing down when you it's icy and you're driving - you slow down or distance yourself so you can pay attention to what happens next.   It can occur so subtly that you wouldn't even notice that it's occurring until you've decided whether or not you want to stop your car completely.  

All friendships go through rough patches, so this gives you time to discover whether you're going through one with the TSKOFYN or whether you're dealing with TTF.  As a whole, TSKOFYN's tend to be open to hashing things out and listening to you're feelings while TTF just wants to shut you down and tell you that only they matter. If you're in a toxic friendship, how do you get out without losing friends that you love?  So, how do you tell who is who?  And what kind of friends do you need?  Well, here are my thoughts....

The Six Kinds of Friends You Need (TSKOFYN)

The One You've Known Forever (TOYKN) - This is a friend you've had since you were young.  They know your family, your romantic history, the other TOYKF's - actually, they could probably blackmail you with everything they know about you. You trust the opinions of this friend, because let's face it, they've known you forever - meaning they know how you think, how you react, who you are.  You've probably gone through some rough patches with this friend at some point - whether it was when you were younger or even recently - but it's only solidified your friendship and taught you that real friendships grow and blossom through struggles. 

The One That Tells It Like It Is (TOTTILII) - The is a friend that will call you out when you're being ridiculous.  This is also the friend that will tell you gently, but firmly, their thoughts on how other people are treating you.  You won't be able to embellish the truth or make things seem sunnier than they are with TOTTILII, but that's a good thing.  This friend keeps you grounded and helps you to focus on what's really important today and what isn't going to matter five minute from now.  TOTTILII is one of the best friends you can have, as this friend is fiercely loyal and forgiving.

The One That Simply Listens (TOTSL) - This friend will let you hash it out, cry it out, rant and listen to your own voice in the midst of a major crisis.  They won't try to push you in a certain direction but will simply let you breath and figure it out on your own.  TOTSL never tries to force their opinions on you but is simply there to help you and hold your hand.  That being said, when there isn't a crisis, TOTSL will love to hear all about your latest stories when the rest of your friends are rolling their eyes saying "ughhh....we've heard this story three times already"

The One That Has Your Back (TOTHYB) - This is the friend that would get in a legitimate fight for you, no questions asked, because this friend is protective about the people they care about. TOTHYB doesn't want to see you get hurt, so they'll stand in the way of anything that's coming down your path.  This friend can be feisty, but you'll find that more often then not they have almost supernatural skills when it comes to judging someones true character.  This is a friend whose actions always speak louder than their words. 

The One You Pick Right Up With (TOYPRUW) - This is the friend that you can go weeks, months or years without talking to - but within 30 seconds you've completely picked up where you left off with absolutely no awkwardness.  If you haven't seen the TOYPRUW and randomly run into each other, you'll both be excited and if you're ladies, you'll totally hug.  TOYPRUW isn't easily angered and is a pretty even keel go with the flow kind of person. This usually starts out as almost an instantaneous friendship, with lulls where you become super close and lulls where you become distant.  It can be for all sorts of reasons - they might have a different circle of friends, might be part of TFF (more on that later) or might live farther away.  It doesn't matter though, because you know that just like the tides come and go before you know it you'll be telling secrets to TOYPRUW all over again.   

The One That's Just Like You (TOTJLY) - Who are you as a person?  Are you quiet or loud? Are you a type A personality or not? Are you sensitive or strong?  TOTJLY is so important, because better than anyone TOTJLY gets what it's like to be you.  If you're nervous about something, this is the friend that can relate because they would feel the same way.   You probably met this friend in college and if your career field draws similar personality types, I wouldn't be surprised if they work in the same area.  This is the friend that can understand emergencies that no one else can understand and is the on you call when you feel as though you're standing on a ledge and need to be talked down.

The One Friend That You Don't (TOFTYD)

The Toxic Friend (TTF) - In the beginning, this friend masquerades as one of the other types. It starts subtly at first, TTF makes comments that make you uncomfortable - usually about past friends, exs or friends exs - you'll blow it off because TTF is such a great friend, they're just being protective.  Other people - usually roommates or friends - will start commenting about how they feel wary about TTF. In turn, you'll notice yourself making tons of excuses for TTF - she isn't giving mean looks-she's just painfully shy, he's not slutty-he's just overly friendly, I'm sorry they made you so upset-I'm sure it was a misunderstanding. Then, a funny thing happens - you'll start listening more to what is going on around you. You'll notice that TTF basically hates everyone except for you and a few other people - a classic move of TTF is to flat out tell you they're the only friend you need.  TTF will start to criticize you in subtle ways that will make you start to feel badly about yourself, but you won't know why....All you'll know is that other people make you happier than TTF does, so you'll try to drift away.  TTF will realize they're losing control, so TTF will pick fights and may even say you've been a bad friend but won't have any examples.  If you've never had TTF, you'll probably feel horrible and start thinking of all the ways you can pacify TTF, especially if you can't handle confrontation.  If you've experienced TTF before and realize you are again, at this point you know it's time to pack your bags in the most non-dramatic way possible.  After all, if there's one thing TTF loves, it's drama.  I'm really sorry to tell you this, but remember all those people TTF used to talk about?  You're about to be one of them :( TTF will talk about you in whatever way you exit, whether it's a big knockdown fight with tears or whether you slowly disappear off the map, using whatever kind of fodder they can come up with.  It will be really hard to hear that TTF is talking about you, especially because nothing TTF says will be true or will fit with your character.  Just remember that people who truly know you will be able to see that. You might even experience TFF (see below) Eventually though, you'll be old news and you'll have The Six Kinds of Friends You Need (TSKOFYN) to help you through it.

Toxic Friend Fallout (TFF) - The most devastating loss of the friends that you might lose because of it. I, like many of my friends, have experienced TFF and have lost people I've truly cared about.  It's truly awful. On the same token,  remember in the beginning when I said friendships have trials and tests?  This is one of them.  So, keep forging on with your other friendships and try not to let this experience hurt them - most often times the friends in these scenarios tend to be The One You Pick Right Up With (TOYPRUW), which as you know are The Six Kinds of Friends You Need (TSKOFYN) :)

So to all of my friends, I thank you for always being there.  I thank you for listening to my rambling stories, to treating me kindly, for laughing and for memories that will last a lifetime both now and in the future - I truly love all of you.  To the friends I've lost, both because life got in the way and both for toxic reasons, I will always wish you the best.

See you later with a WIAW post!!!  Which is totally fun and not totally serious :)